What is Veraison?
Taken from the French, veraison is the change of color of grapes. It is a signal that the plant and its berries are putting their energies into ripening the berries instead of berry
The unripe grapes, all a bright green color, begin to turn either pale yellow or dark blue/purple in the case of “red” wine grapes. This is a photograph of Johnson Estate's Pinot Noir grapes which have started but not completed veraison. At this stage, the vines have begun to transport energy stores to the grapes and they increase in size as sugar levels increase.
Birds Looking for Early Ripening Grapes
In western New York and Pennsylvania, where 30,000 acres of vineyards are found along Lake Erie, the end of September is known for the aroma of ripening grapes and the commencement of the region's harvest of Concords. When this begins to happen, it is a signal that the grapes are becoming sweeter. The majority of the region's vineyards are Concord grapes which tend to ripen later than some wine varieties. As a result, the early-ripening wine varieties, like Johnson Estate's Maréchal Foch and Pinot Noir need to be protected from birds whose choices are fewer at the beginning of the season.
At Johnson Estate, these two early-ripening grape varieties are protected from hungry birds through the use of ballons, kevlar streamers, and periodic cannon shots. In addition, there is a recording of a hawk attacking a starling and all of these efforts help to diminish the birds' interest in these first-ripening grapes.
More Information may be found here:
Fred Johnson, Owner
Bang! Starting Gun.
"Bud Break" announces the start of a new growing season in the vineyards - a new vintage begins.
Will there be enough heat-light units to finish the race at harvest with gold medal quality grapes for the year's wine? Or will we come up short, with grapes insufficiently ripe to make the best wines?
In 2017, "bud break" - officially when half of the buds on the grape vine are showing at least the edge of half of a leaf - was about two weeks early. This year, we're about five days late than the May 4th average. Last year was ideal for producing excellent vintages; not too cool, not too wet; long mild fall; just right. Five days later than the average bud break in 2018 is no great handicap, but the vineyards will need a little extras heat during the summer (but not over 90° please)
and extra sunny days to arrive at harvest in "medal form" this year.
Dear Mother Nature,
Thanks for getting me up so early Thursday morning. The stars were sparkling over the vineyards as I tromped through knee-deep snow hoping for an early harvest.
Each winter, we watch the long-range weather forecasts to see when you will bless us with several "cold-enough" days (that means 12-15 degrees!) to crystallize the juice in the grapes we net for ice wine. Earlier this week, it began to look promising, and we'd sent out the "Ice Wine Harvest Alert" to all our hardy volunteers.
So, on Thursday, well before dawn, I stopped in the midst of the snowy Chambourcin vineyard to check on the state of the grapes set aside for ice wine. When I popped a grape berry into my mouth, it was slushy.....but not yet crunchy. A no go......not cold enough. Then I had to text the volunteers: "stay in bed!".
So, back to watching your weather. In the meantime, and for all of the regular folk too, here's a link to an article on ice wines in the most recent issue of Edible Western New York. Publisher, Stephanie Schuckers Burdo, was with us last December and took that photo of me hauling a crate full of Chambourcin; then she put the camera down and helped with the harvest!
Fred Johnson, A hopeful vignernon
Last week, another harvest was completed; today the first flakes of snow swirl, but melt as they touch the golden leaves. It is time for giving thanks. Thanks to our creator and shepherd who has given us the most glorious fall in many, many years. Not only that, but a growing season that has delivered the cleanest, ripest, most luscious bunches of grapes; bunch upon bunch, ton upon ton. It should be a memorable vintage.
We owe abundant thanks too, for the loyalty of our customers, the steady, unstintingly cheerful work of our teammates in the vineyards, cellar, and wine-shop. We are grateful, as well, for the community that surrounds and supports us, and we wish all good cheer.
As is our custom after harvest, we are again pleased to offer free shipping to customers nearby and far away. We know that many of the people who visit us during the season have roots in our community, but either now live at some distance or have family or friends that do. It is with this broad, western New York 'diaspora' in mind that we reach out in gratitude with this humble offer of wine transport - free as Santa’s sleigh, if not so magical!
As the first bands of snow march off Lake Erie, I am warmed by the memories of summer just past: the vineyard walks with cheerful, interested and interesting visitors, the golden sunsets out over Lake Erie, the planting of our newest Pinot vineyard block, the breathless unloading of our newest wine tanks and barrels, and the raising of a new barn among the vineyards. I eagerly look forward to tasting the wines of 2017. I forecast that they will be excellent.
Jennifer and I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving among family and friends. We thank you for your interest and support and may your holiday season be joyful. May you return to visit us, preferably in person if you can, or on-line in the meantime!
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